Indiana keeps getting it done

Indiana keeps getting it done

Under cloud of uncertainty, Hoosiers dominate Purdue, close in on Big Ten lead

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

February 20, 2008

Indiana’s Eric Gordon (23) in-bounds the ball to D.J. White and looks to get it back for a quick 3-point attempt on a set play, but the Hoosiers turned the ball over – one of 23 on the night – during the second half Tuesday night. But behind 22 points from Gordon and 19 from White, the Hoosiers beat Purdue, 77-68. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 20, 2008 Bloomington Herald-Times

If Kelvin Sampson coached his final game with the Indiana Hoosiers Tuesday night, he made a case for being remembered as something other than the coach who got caught cheating.

The No. 15 Hoosiers beat No. 14 Purdue 77-68 at Assembly Hall.

Afterward, Sampson and the Indiana players barely acknowledged the fact that Sampson may be removed this week when athletic director Rick Greenspan finishes his assessment of charges levied by the NCAA that Sampson broke recruiting rules and then lied about it.

Greenspan owes university president Michael McRobbie a recommendation on Sampson’s future by Friday. Indiana’s next game is Saturday at Northwestern.

Sampson did not seem to think his job was in jeopardy.

“I expect to be here Tuesday,” he said, referring to the home game against Ohio State next week.

“We don’t expect our coach to leave us at any time,” freshman guard Eric Gordon said.

Sampson also refused to address those who have questioned his ethics in light of the recent allegations.

“The people who know me – who know me – know me,” he said.

Greenspan was not available for comment Tuesday, but two sources say he and the two other members of the investigative committee are working long hours, poring over evidence against Sampson collected by the NCAA and turned over to the university.

Facing scandal has brought the Hoosiers (22-4, 11-2 in the Big Ten) together in convincing back-to-back wins against top 15 opponents. Indiana hadn’t done that since 1992 when it went to the Final Four.

Gordon had a game-high 22 points Tuesday night, 13 of which came from the free-throw line.

That was where the game was decided: Indiana went 30-for-34 while Purdue was 11-for-21.

It was, perhaps ironically, exactly the type of game from the Hoosiers that Sampson promised prior to the season. While Gordon attacked the rim, D.J. White controlled the paint and Armon Bassett, who hit all four 3-pointers he took, kept the Boilermakers accountable for the perimeter.

White, who sprained his left knee in Saturday’s win against Michigan State, had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Only early did his knee bother him, and even then it was only the thought of the injury nagging.

“It’s always in your head when you have an injury like that,” he said. “But as the game went on I got more comfortable.”

The Hoosiers turned the ball over 23 times after a stretch of three games in which they made a total of just 22 turnovers. They’ve given the ball away more than 20 times twice this season (they had 26 at Minnesota) and won both times.

Sampson decried the turnovers, but clearly the same thing that caused them also led to the plays that gave Indiana the win.

“When you are aggressive you are going to force turnovers,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “And when you’re aggressive, they’re going to get to the line more.”

The Boilermakers (21-6, 12-2) had a 10-4 lead after seven minutes as Indiana switched between man-to-man and zone defenses. Once Sampson saw that Purdue would shoot over the zone he stuck with man, and the Hoosiers were as good at it as they have been all year.

Purdue took 72 shots (30 more than the Hoosiers) but made only 25. Indiana largely avoided fouling and controlled the paint following shots; it had 37 defensive rebounds.

The Hoosiers stretched a 3-point half-time lead with dunks by White and Kyle Taber in the first minute of the second half. Every time Purdue threatened, Indiana had an answer. A Robbie Hummel 3-pointer made the score 36-33; Eric Gordon answered with a lay-in.

Hummel, one of four Purdue freshmen from Indiana and believed by some to be a challenger to Gordon for Big Ten freshman of the year, had 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and four blocks.

After a Scott Martin 3-pointer made it 57-55 with 6:10 left, Indiana hit nine straight free throws and had a seven point lead with three minutes left, which Purdue could not whittle away.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, a surreal feeling took over Assembly Hall.

Kelvin Sampson hugged White when the senior captain fouled out.

A “Kel-vin, Samp-son!” chant started and was met with boos before melting away.

Painter called Gordon and White the best one-two combo in the country.

Samspon declared White the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Indiana’s players focused on their recent improvement.

Sampson looked ahead to a possible meeting with the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament.

What could have been?

The win Tuesday was Sampson’s 498th as a head coach.

Later this week he will find out whether he’ll be given the chance to win 499 at Indiana.